Experts from the College of Education and Human Development will join colleagues from five other colleges across the University to help developing countries better respond to emerging animal diseases that pose a threat to human health.
The University of Minnesota is part of a multidisciplinary team that will implement a United States Agency for International Development (USAID) cooperative agreement with funding up to $185 million.
The project, called RESPOND, is one of five that will work together to pre-empt or combat the first stages of emerging zoonotic pandemics--diseases that can spread between animals and humans.
Faculty and graduate students from CEHD will provide monitoring and evaluation of training activities, provided by University experts and partners, with animal and health care workers in potential hot spots (likely located in Southeast Asia, the Congo Basin, and the Amazon Basin).
"We are honored to be part of the University of Minnesota partnership with USAID," says professor David W. Chapman from the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development, who is the primary college liaison on the partnership. "The project is an important piece of the United States' effort to help combat animal-born diseases that could lead to pandemics."
Faculty from the College of Veterinary Medicine, the School of Public Health, the School of Nursing, the Medical School, the College of Education and Human Development, and College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resources Sciences, will be tasked with improving the ability of countries to recognize and respond to new epidemics in areas where ecological relationships - between humans, animals, and the environment - are unstable. Over the course of the five-year project, the RESPOND team will work to improve the training and response capacity for zoonotic disease outbreak identification, investigation, analysis, and control within countries and regions; strive to improve the coordination among public and private interests involved in an outbreak; support in-country outbreak response activities; and introduce new technologies to help improve a country's response to an outbreak.
The College of Veterinary Medicine's new Ecosystem Health program, National Center for Food Protection and Defense, and Center for Animal Health and Food Safety were instrumental in obtaining funds to join RESPOND.
"We are increasingly aware that our health depends on the health of livestock, wildlife, and the environment." said Katey Pelican, head of the Ecosystem Health program, who championed the University's proposal to join the RESPOND team. "Nowhere is this clearer than in the increasing number of diseases that are emerging from animal populations as environmental degradation forces more interactions between wildlife, livestock, and humans. The RESPOND program will provide the University of Minnesota the opportunity to use its unique ability to work across animal and human health disciplines to improve global response to these life threatening outbreaks."
Although members of the RESPOND team will be dealing with diseases that don't yet exist, examples of similar diseases they might try to prevent include SARS, Ebola, and avian influenza.
"As the founder of the Congressional Global Health Caucus, I applaud USAID for recognizing the critical need to address emerging illnesses from a global perspective and to better understand the intersection of human and animal health," said Minnesota Rep. Betty McCollum. "The University of Minnesota uniquely brings together the multiple disciplines and experience needed to meet this challenge.
John Deen, associate professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine, will be the director of the project at the University of Minnesota.